One of the major talking points that has generated heated discussions and arguments surrounding the Nigeria’s 2015 General Elections has been the readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct the elections, and one that has resulted in the shifting of the polls by 6 weeks from February 14, 2015 to March 28, 2015.
While INEC has declared their readiness for February 14th date, different sides have also presented their arguments, depending on which side of the divide they belong. It was first the National Security Adviser (NSA) that maintained that the elections could not go on because of security concerns. The All Progressives Congress (APC) insinuated that the Federal Government, headed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), orchestrated the shift because the PDP was afraid of losing the elections.
Needless to say that the introduction of the PVC card readers by INEC is a novel idea, and it would go a long way to make the election free of rigging. However, it is also important to critically analyze issues surrounding the use of the technology especially taking into consideration the Nigerian environment and its factors.
This is not the forum to discuss the technology behind card readers, or how they work, but this is to raise the question of “If” it would work as INEC suggests.
If the general elections go ahead with the use of the card readers, the 2015 Elections would be the pilot run for their use in Nigeria. As a technologist, who has grown through the ranks, and have experienced working in fields ranging from support to system design, to system integration, it is my belief that we should have used them either in the 2014 Ekiti State election, or the Osun State election as test drive—preferably both.
Failure of the card reader technology on the election date would be a disaster with a long ripple effect on subsequent elections, not minding the cost incurred on the 2015 general elections.
INEC swore that they were ready, but 5 weeks the February 14th date, they are still battling with the distribution of the Permanent Voters Cards. I was surprised when INEC declared the 7th of March, 2015 as a mock test date for the PVCs and Card Readers, with varying degrees of successes, if we could even call it that.
What I expect from Nigerians, especially those in the opposition, and those who have decided to politicize the Card Reader issue, is for them to sit down and critically think through the issues surrounding the deployment of such technologies.
On the Permanent Voters Card, this should be a year round exercise that should only be suspended few weeks to the elections. We have had reports of people who registered in pre-2011 elections but could not locate their PVCs; simply because their data could not be located, or was affected by virus.
I have advocated on several platforms to establish National Civic Centers in all Local Governments where a National Database will be domiciled, and things like Civic Registrations (Voters Card, Birth Registration Certificates, Death Registrations/Certificates), National ID Cards, Drivers Licensing and the likes) will be issued. The National Civic Center would have eliminated most of the issues we face today with PVC card readers.
We need to be forward thinking, stop all these kneejerk reactions, and stop politicizing all issues to the detriment of Nigerian public. Nigerians are always losers in the end.
As a professional, I strongly recommend that INEC jettison with the introduction of the card reader for these elections. They had 4 years to prepare for this, prepare user manuals, distribute PVCs to the public, and carry out voters education around them. Why is INEC stampeding Nigeria into a mistake that will carry more grievous consequences than simply fumbling the 2015 elections?
Adetayo Adegbemle is a public opinion commentator/analyst, researcher, and the convener of PowerUpNigeria, a Power Consumer Advocacy Group, based in Lagos. (Twitter: @gbemle, @PowerUpNg)